East Cambridgeshire Council to scrap £47,000 grant to Citizens Advice, claiming it can do the job better

A £47,000 grant could be scrapped for an independent advice charity in Cambridgeshire. The Citizens

A £47,000 grant could be scrapped for an independent advice charity in Cambridgeshire. The Citizens Advice Bureau in Ely. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

A £47,000 grant could be scrapped for an independent advice charity in East Cambridgeshire that help thousands of people in debt.

Citizens Advice Rural Cambridgeshire (CARC) is likely to lose their yearly funding from East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC).

The money is used, says the council, to support the provision of free, confidential, impartial and independent advice. Its expertise extends to dealing with benefits, money advice, consumer advice, employment advice and relationship advice.

But the district council say that around 80 per cent of support such as debt, benefits and housing advice "overlap and duplicate" with their own services.

Funding would be stopped from April and the service delivered directly by ECDC.

However, the proposal comes at the busiest time of year for CARC as they expect 175 people to seek advice for debt concerns in January, including council tax arrears, credit card debt, rent arrears, unsecured loans and utility bills.

In 2018/19 CARC helped 2,717 residents in East Cambridgeshire with 8,652 issues; people from Ely, Littleport, Soham and Burwell make up 60 per cent of their work load.

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Lewis Bage, communities and partnerships manager, says: "The council has a track record for delivering against the needs of its residents."

His report to the committee says: "A review has been undertaken to establish whether a future grant to CARC is effectively meeting the aims of the council to deliver and excellent service that meets the needs of an evolving community."

Having concluded the council can do a better job he lists areas such as housing, the council's community hubs, and what he calls a "one- stop- shop" approach to "intervene and assist residents with issues that they face in an ever changing environment".

He added: "We already have established relationships with external organisations and can give specialist advice."

If the council agrees, four jobs would be also offered with ECDC's housing team at an additional cost of £95,252, with costs met with through central government funding and the £47,000 grant which would have gone to CARC.

The report, which will be discussed at the operational services committee at ECDC on January 20, states that there is currently a "lack of control" for the council to intervene with CARC.

Mr Bage continues: "The council is well positioned to respond to any impacts and participates in local campaigns and attracts external funding into the district."

Analysis of national data over a 12-month period revealed that on a single day - January 29 2019 - citizen advice offices helped 2,776 people.